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Molto Bene! Portabella Bistro

Interview: Executive Chef Vittorio Negri of the Portabella Bistro Ė Fontana Hotel Bali.

(1/8/2014) recently caught up with Vittorio Negri the talented executive chef at Fontana Hotel Bali's Portabella Bistro. A native of Naples (Italy), the youthful Vittorio started his culinary education working as a teenager in a small hotel, before pursuing formal training in catering, hotel management and baking.

Work stints followed at La Taverna in Tuscany and as chef de partie at the renowned Aurora Restaurant on the Island of Capri. The young chef’s culinary sojourn continued working for a well-known chain of Italian restaurants in London, an assignment as chef de cuisine at La Riviera Restaurant in Abu Dhabi and just prior to coming to Indonesia - the role of executive sous chef at the Regency Hotel in Tunisia.

On the day of our interview, Vittorio was putting a kitchen crew of around 25 through their paces, conducting menu familiarization training on the intricacies of handmade pasta, white lamb Ragu, Tuna volcano, wood-fired pizza – some of the selections forming a part of Vittorio's signature menu.

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The Interview: Chef Vittorio Negri
Portabella Bistro at Fontana Hotel Bali Talk to me about Portabella. What familiar culinary friends will I encounter and what dishes will take me to new territory?

Chef Vittorio Negri: Portabella – the name literally means ‘beautiful door.’ My target since the first day we opened was to recreate an authentic Italian experience; the impression that once you step in our door you are actually in Italy.

Italian food - its traditions and its memories come from Grandma’s ragu and those amazing focaccia of my Grandfather. These emotions are part of the experience that we want to share with our clients and culinary friends. My role is that of a host full of passion and love for his job; always available for a suggestion or to create a dish based on a guest’s requirements.

We have in Portabella Signature Dishes like crab cakes, handmade black linguine or ravioli lobster and the white lamb ragu – all food to remind you of your old Italian home – be it real or imagined. Let’s make a brief departure into fantasy. Former Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi and President SBY have just made a booking for dinner tonight at Portabella. The menu is your call. What would you prepare for them?

Chef Vittorio Negri: No doubt, an aphrodisiac light meal because, for sure, Mr. Berlusconi will arrange an after-dinner party. I’d prepare for him a three-course menu. As a starter - Lobster Carpaccio with Beluga caviar and lemon foam; for the main course a Risotto Casanova - it’s a risotto prepared with champagne and oyster; followed by a dessert of Valrona dark chocolate and green chilly parfait.

Let’s see . . . for President SBY, I would propose a menu made entirely from local Indonesian products. As a starter – Portabella’s signature crab cakes with our spicy dip – always a big hit with our Indonesian guests. For the main course I’d serve Linguine Negra – handmade pasta prepared with squid ink and one of our best sellers.. For dessert, I’d serve the President a tropical Italianized cake ‘Passion Delice’ - a mix of cheese and white chocolate mousse with a crunchy cookie base and crowned with passion fruit jelly on top. I notice you have a genuine wood-fired oven in your kitchen. Do you use it for more than just pizza?

Chef Vittorio Negri: Yes we have a wood oven used for many items we cook such as our welcome breads – a different kind of bread served every day. We also use the oven to gratin our lasagna, Parmigianino and fettuccine ala boscaiola. But a ‘must try’ for wood-fired oven cooking aficionados is the Calzone ripieno and the panuozzo – one of our signature pizzas. For me, Italian food must be accompanied by wine. What about your wine list at Portabella and what wine with dinner will cost?

Chef Vittorio Negri: Definitely wine is an important part of a meal, and it’s certainly part of a perfect Italian culinary experience. Chanti, Valpolicella, Prosecco or Gavi are ‘musts’ in an Italian restaurant. Our wine list follows the philosophy of our food: good quality with reasonable prices. Expect a three-course degustation menu with a glass of red or white Italian wine for Rp. 250,000 net (US$ 20). You have a young team in your kitchen. Generally what’s your take on Indonesia’s up and coming generation of chefs?

Chef Vittorio Negri: In my kitchen we operate 3 outlets and I have 32 staff at the moment, mostly they are young, led by more experienced seniors in each department.

I think their basic professional preparation at school is good. However, the enthusiasm and potential these people bring to their jobs needs to be molded and inspired in order to shape their personalities and achieve their true potential in the future.

This is one of the most challenging and rewarding roles of an executive chef in Bali - to educate and train properly the next generation of professional chefs.
What’s your favorite local dish you've discovered during your Indonesian assignment?

Chef Vittorio Negri: I`m usually a fan of seafood, but in Indonesia my first choice is a meat dish - ‘Beef Rendang.’ It’s my favorite. I’ve even decided to add it to the in-room dining menu here at Fontana Hotel Bali managed by Topotels.

Portabella Bistro
Fontana Hotel Bali

Jalan Dewi Sri No. 68
Kuta - Bali, Indonesia 80361
Telephone ++62-(0)361 8947100

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